Bears, rattlesnakes, coyotes and more: How to react to Colorado wildlife

Posted at 1:25 PM, May 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-22 15:25:04-04

DENVER — Springtime in Colorado means two sets of hibernation are over; both those of humans and animals. 

Outdoor enthusiasts will be back on thawed out trails, hiking in the woods, walking along streams and most likely seeing wildlife.

Throughout one's life, especially in Colorado, that means coming face to face with a potentially dangerous animal. Not to fear, however, most of the time animals are more afraid of humans and have no desire to actually attack.

Learn how to react when face to face with some of Colorado's more dangerous inhabitants:


First of all, most — if not all — bears you'll see in Colorado are Black Bears, which are a species of bear. Black Bears can be black, brown, cinnamon or even blonde.

Most of a bear's diet is fruits, nuts, plants, scavenged food and carcasses and fish, so they aren't particularly skilled hunters. 

It's not easy to scare a bear, as they typically will see you, smell you or hear you before you notice them. That often times will prompt them to leave the area. 

If you should happen upon a bear, decide if the bear appears surprised or aggressive. If the bear is nearby, allow it time to figure out you are a human, so calmly stand your ground — do not run away.

The bear may stand on its hind legs and observe you to get a better idea of what you are. Begin to wave your hands over your head slowly and calmly speak to it. 

If the bear makes any noises or stomps at you, it wants you to step away from the area. Take the hint, hike in the other direction by slowly backing away and giving it space. Never run away, and never climb a tree. 

In the rare case that the bear aggressively begins to come toward you, stand your ground and yell, stand tall and wave around your arms. Scare off the bear in this situation by throwing rocks at it.

Skilled hikers often times carry bear spray. Now is the right time to deploy bear spray. 

In the rare case the bear continues and begins to attack, do not play dead, fight back using anything you have. You will likely be able to deter the bear in its attacks. 

Most bears you will happen upon will not want contact, but it's good to know how to react just in case they do. 

Mountain Lions

If you recently saw a mountain lion, consider yourself lucky. These sightings are very rare, and like most animals in Colorado, they don't want contact with humans. 

In the rare event that you encounter one, it helps to be traveling with a group of people who are well-equipped for the hike. 

Never approach the lion — always leave the cat a way to leave the area, as they will typically only attack if they feel cornered. 

Do not run away, use a firm voice and talk to the lion while slowly backing away if possible. 

Much like bears, you may raise your arms to appear larger than you are. In the same vein, you may throw rocks in the lion's direction if they display aggression. 

Finally, if the lion does attack, fight back. They will likely be discouraged by the struggle and flee. 


Encountering a rattlesnake can be a frightening event, especially as the snakes typically blend in with their surroundings and are incredibly venomous.

Avoiding an attack is very easy, however. Most rattlesnakes still possess their rattles, and will be sure to warn you when you are encroaching upon their territory.

Back away slowly when you hear the rattle and they will not lash out at you. 

If bit by a rattlesnake that was surprised in the weeds or tall grass, get to safety and immediately call for medical attention by dialing 911. 


These canines are intelligent and opportunistic hunters. Hikers who encounter coyotes should think quickly, as they aren't likely to attack, but can be dangerous if they do strike.

Hikers should be cautious about hiking with their pets, as coyotes will likely see a small pet as prey. 

If a coyote approaches, become as large as possible by waving your arms, yelling loudly, throwing things at it and making noise with anything available. 

Never run from a coyote. If attacked, always fight back. 

Hikers are always encouraged to carry a stick and a deterrent spray, like bear spray.